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Dogwood Health Trust Holds 2023 Annual Meeting

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Community Investment team announces grantmaking focus for 2024, celebrates regional collaboration. 

Asheville, N.C. –Dogwood Health Trust held its fourth Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 18, before an in-person and virtual crowd of more than 500 nonprofit partners and community members. Casey Cooper, CEO of Cherokee Indian Hospital and a member of the Dogwood board of directors, was the keynote speaker. Cooper spoke in great detail about the importance of collaboration and its value in accomplishing goals others never dream possible, chronicling the expansive growth and deep impact he’s witnessed and championed in his work with Cherokee Indian Hospital. Dogwood CEO Dr. Susan Mims announced the theme of the meeting as “See Possibilities,” recognizing that the region has been and continues to be resilient, creative and innovative, creating a wealth of possibilities for the region. 

Casey Cooper presenting

In her remarks, Dr. Mims shared how from the beginning, Dogwood’s Board recognized that 80% of a person’s health is impacted by factors outside of a clinical health setting – through social drivers like access to housing, education, health and wellness, and economic opportunities that can affect a person’s health outcomes. To begin to address those social drivers, the Board and staff understood that they must always listen to what is top of mind for people in the communities Dogwood serves, while also studying data about these social drivers – and when it’s not available, commissioning research in order to have a solid frame of reference for future decision making. Utilizing what they hear from the community along with data and research, Dogwood has made significant investments in each of its four strategic priority areas, Echoing the words of Casey Cooper, Mims noted that Dogwood is working collaboratively – and with intention – across all four of these priority areas simultaneously in order to see these investments continue to yield high returns.

“I’m proud to say that Dogwood Health Trust has made or committed more than $72 million in grants in 2023,” Mims said. She went on to note that Dogwood has also helped organizations across the region secure an additional $76.6 million from outside sources via the Leverage Fund, which underwrites the services of seasoned grant writers to help nonprofits in Western North Carolina win grants from federal and state programs as well as large national funders. Since the Leverage Fund began, Dogwood has helped local nonprofits attract more than $136 million to support people and communities in the region.

Susan Mims presenting
Dr. Susan Mims presenting at the 2023 Dogwood Health Trust Annual Meeting

As an example of collaborative investments across Dogwood’s strategic priorities, Mims shared how workforce development is a universal theme across the region and how the Education, Housing, Health and Wellness, and Economic Opportunity teams have collaborated to support a number of programs and initiatives focused on workforce. “Dogwood can be a strong partner because so many organizations have come to us with their ideas of collaboration and their work shows us every day what is possible,” Mims said.

Through a panel discussion facilitated by Senior Vice-President of Community Investment, Mark Constantine, leaders of the investment team shared their vision for 2024 within each of the strategic priorities. More on 2024 grantmaking priorities shared by Vice Presidents Alex Howard, PhD, Sarah Grymes, Ereka Williams, PhD, and Sarah Thompson can be found on the Dogwood Health Trust website. Constantine also shared grantmaking cycles for 2024, with the majority of Dogwood’s grant investments for 2024 planned through the Strategic Priority Grant opportunity in the first half of the year. The application process opens on Nov. 13, 2023. Investments in Community Equity, Sustainable Organizations/Leverage Fund and Public Policy/Advocacy will be available continually throughout the year. During the second half of 2024, Dogwood will launch a new Broadband initiative and plans to offer some flexible funding for collaboration, planning and exploration, and capacity building for promising ideas or partners. More information on these opportunities will be available in the spring of 2024.

Strategic Priorities Senior VP’s

As Ereka Williams, PhD, VP – Education, wrapped up her remarks she summed up Dogwood’s philanthropic approach with the following quote. “This work isn’t about us, or our children or even our grandchildren. It’s about the generations we will never even see. This type of philanthropy works to move the levers on systems that will allow those future changes to happen, influencing generations beyond our immediate work.” 

A recording of the annual meeting will be available on the Dogwood Health Trust website within a week.

About Dogwood Health Trust

Dogwood Health Trust is a private foundation based in Asheville, North Carolina with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and wellbeing of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust focuses on innovative and equitable ways to address the many factors that contribute to overall health and wellbeing, with a focus on housing, education, economic opportunity, and health and wellness. Dogwood Health Trust works to create a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive, with dignity and opportunity for all, no exceptions. To learn more, please visit

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Health & Wellness | Goal 4

Increase Access to Behavioral Health and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

Support programs and networks that reduce deaths, treat addiction, and prevent first use

Objective 4.1: Reduce opioid overdose mortality throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Reduce untreated behavioral health and substance use disorder in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 4.3: Prevent and reduce behavioral health issues and substance use (tobacco, alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs) in youth

Health & Wellness | Goal 3

Address Health Disparities

Help reduce disparities based on race, location, education and income factors

Objective 3.1: Improve health outcomes for women and infants in rural and low-income communities and communities of color

Objective 3.2: Reduce the prevalence of common chronic health diseases in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 3.3: Increase effectiveness of health care through delivery of culturally aligned services

Health & Wellness | Goal 2

Increase Access to Whole-Person Health Care

Invest in integrated heath care with seamless connections to supportive services

Objective 2.1: Increase the number of people with affordable health insurance coverage

Objective 2.2: Increase the available workforce for primary and allied health care services

Objective 2.3: Increase access to comprehensive and integrated care

Objective 2.4: Increase access to community-based services in low-income, elderly and rural communities

Health & Wellness | Goal 1

Support and Build Healthy Communities

Support communities that promote healthy living and resiliency and help mitigate the impact of trauma, isolation and stress on individuals and families, especially those experiencing poverty

Objective 1.1: Decrease adverse experiences (ACEs and traumatic violence) and improve individual and family resiliency

Objective 1.2: Increase access to community environments that promote healthy living and social connectedness across the age continuum

Economic Opportunity | Goal 4

Foster Entrepreneurship

Support a well-funded, sustainable, competitive entrepreneur and small business ecosystem throughout the region

Objective 4.1: Increase the number of Person of Color (POC)-led small businesses throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Increase the number of rural small businesses throughout the region

Economic Opportunity | Goal 3

Build Economic Ecosystems

Help build a regional economic ecosystem that supports increased creation/retention of jobs and business ownership

Objective 3.1: Improve access to higher-paying jobs throughout the region, targeting the lowest income populations

Objective 3.2: Increase and retain quality jobs

Objective 3.3: Stimulate economic growth, catalyzing businesses and revenue

Economic Opportunity | Goal 2

Promote Work Readiness

Help build a skilled workforce with the knowledge and technical abilities to excel in a wide range of industry employment opportunities that provide a competitive, sustainable wage

Objective 2.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Economic Opportunity | Goal 1

Develop a Comprehensive Data Resource

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive, county-by-county data set that paints a full picture of work readiness, economic development and entrepreneurial needs and opportunities specific to Western North Carolina

Education | Goal 3

Support Higher Education Career Readiness

Work in tandem with Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority to invest in career readiness at the community college and university levels

Objective 4.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Education | Goal 2

Improve K-12 Education

Support K-12 learning experiences with the resources and sustainability to provide an excellent academic and social-emotional education, so that all students graduate ready for college or career

Objective 2.1: Address teacher workforce challenges

Objective 2.2: Equip families of students to support academic growth and social-emotional health

Objective 2.3: Increase capacity of partners to provide supports and services, particularly for children facing challenges related to poverty, systemic racism, being differently abled or English language learners

Education | Goal 1

Improve Early Childhood Education Ecosystem

Invest in an improved early childhood education ecosystem with the resources and sustainability to provide developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible education and care to support ages birth to five, so that all children in WNC enter kindergarten ready to learn

Objective: Address early childhood educator workforce challenges

Education | Goal 4

Develop a Comprehensive Landscape Study

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive set of publicly available data that provides a regularly updated, county-by-county picture of access, workforce and student outcomes in early childhood education and K-12 education specific to Western North Carolina

Housing | Goal 5

Use Impact Investments to Create Affordable and Workforce Housing

Loans, guarantees, and other financial tools to leverage funding opportunities

Housing | Goal 4

Create and Preserve Housing Units for Persons Below 50% of the Median Income

Increase affordable housing for lowest-income individuals and families

Objective 4.1: Create rental units for households below 50% of the median income

Objective 4.2: Help families pay no more than 30% of their income on housing

Objective 4.3: Create and preserve communities in a way that is representative of the WNC natural landscape

Housing | Goal 3

Create and Preserve Senior Housing

Support age-appropriate resources in affordable and workforce units, rental and owned

Objective 3.1: Create needed rental and homeownership opportunities for seniors

Objective 3.2: Incorporate supportive services in rental housing developments

Objective 3.3: Increase use of universal design in development

Housing | Goal 2

Create and Preserve Supportive Housing Rental Units

Invest in housing with sustainable supports for physical and mental health and wellbeing

Objective 2.1: Create new supportive housing

Objective 2.2: Preserve existing supportive housing

Objective 2.3: Leverage state and federal funds

Single story home in the midst of being build with 3 volunteers helping.

Housing | Goal 1

Support Healthy and Safe Revitalization Opportunities

Support healthy and safe revitalizations that work against displacement and gentrification, preserve home ownership and create generational wealth.

Objective 1.1: Revitalize Neighborhoods

Objective 1.2: Repurpose existing structures to minimize environmental impact

Objective 1.3: Support home ownership